Two Classic Movie Reviews: “All About Eve” and “Hud”

Anne Baxter as Eve
Anne Baxter as Eve, the theater newbie

 

Ruthless people can be fascinating to watch, as we learn from two wonderful classic (black and white) films, All About Eve and Hud.  Both films are character-driven (my fave kind!), thought-provoking, and intelligent.  The ruthless person in All About Eve (nominted for 14 Oscars!!!) is Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter; you can see her each Thanksgiving as the gorgeous Queen Nefretiri in The Ten Commandmants). 

Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter
Anne w/ Yul Brynner- WOW!!!

 

Eve is petite, with intense eyes, and (unusually) humble and ingratiating at the start of the film.  She adores Broadway star Margot Channing (Bette Davis) and wants to be a part of her world.  The kind-hearted wife of a great playwright, Karen Richards (Celeste Holm; she co-starred as the grandmother in the TV show Promised Land) introduces Eve to Margot and their circle of theater insiders.  They are touched by her sad life story and her sweet demeanor.  Soon, she becomes Margot’s personal assistant and lives in her apartment.  Margot’s long-time friend/housekeeper, Birdie, thinks that Eve is too good to be true!  What are Eve’s true feelings and intentions?  We wonder this because people are rarely so helpful, humble, and grateful like her.

What's she REALLY up to?

 Don’t get up. And please stop acting as if I were the queen mother. -Margot

 

The ruthless person in Hud (winner of 3 Oscars) is Hud Bannon (Paul Newman- taking on an anti-hero role), the 34 y.o. son of an old, honest cattle rancher, Homer (Melvin Douglas).  Hud is handsome, charming, reckless, and insensitive to the feelings/needs of others. 

Paul Newman as Hud

Movie tagline: The man with the barbed wire soul!

 

When he’s not (begrudgingly) working for his dad, Hud is living a protracted adolescence- driving too fast, drinking too much, sleeping with married women, and generally being a bad example to the real adolescent in the family, 17 y.o. nephew Lonnie (Brandon de Wilde).  Lonnie is cute, sweet, and thoughtful; he’s an orphan who also works/lives on the Bannon ranch.   

The only question I ever ask any woman is “What time is your husband coming home?”

 

Hud flirts shamelessly with the ranch’s wise and earthy housekeeper, Alma (Patricia Neal).  But she is one woman in town that won’t be had easy!  When hoof and mouth disease threatens the cattle (and the family fortune), Hud suggests an underhanded plan.  Homer is surprised and disappointed by his son’s lack of principles.  But that’s not the only reason there is a distance/coldness between father and son!

 

 

If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights. 

Eve

 

Though Eve wins the trust and friendship of Margot, Karen, Bill (Margot’s director bf), and Lloyd (Karen’s hubby; a great playwright), she is not afraid to step on/use them on her way to stardom.  There is something disconcerting (notice the eyes) about her intensity and single-mindedness.   She is truly “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”- the ambition behind her smile knows no bounds!

 

…you don’t value anything. You don’t respect nothing. You keep no check on your appetites at all. You live just for yourself. And that makes you not fit to live with. 
-Homer
Hud, on the other hand, does nothing to disguise his “bad boy” side from his family and small Texas community.  He doesn’t apologize for his behavior because he sees nothing wrong with it!  Hud lives for pleasure (Jack Daniels whiskey, beautiful women, etc.) because he can’t live up to his father’s high moral standards (honesty, plain-speaking, moderation).  In one intense scene, Hud blames Homer for how he turned out, like an immature teen.  Lonnie, who observes his uncle carefully, is actually the bigger man in the film.  He grows to realize that Hud is no role model.

Eve is not the type of character that many viewers will sympathize with, though she is fun to watch.  Hud is self-destructive; only a dedicated actor like Newman can bring (a bit of) humanity to such a guy!  To discover those special moments, pay attention to his eyes, facial expressions, and body language during silent moments.  Sometimes the silence reveals more re: a character than his/her speech. 

 

Infants behave the way I do, you know. They carry on and misbehave – they’d get drunk if they knew how – when they can’t have what they want, when they feel unwanted or insecure or unloved.

Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman.

 

Margot Channing is a more well-developed character than nemesis Eve.  Though she is smart, talented, successful, etc., the actress is insecure about her love life.  She worries about getting old, even though her writer calls her “age-less.”  Margot creates drama where there is no need, trying the patience of her old pals.  Unlike Hud and Eve, Margot knows her faults and craves acceptance despite them.  She can laugh at herself- a great quality! 

 

 

Claudia: Oh, waiter!
Addison: That is not a waiter, my dear, that is a butler.
Claudia: Well, I can’t yell “Oh butler!” can I? Maybe somebody’s name is Butler.
Addison: You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.

 

Marilyn Monroe has a small (but funny) part in All About Eve; she looks great (of course)!  The theater critic, Addison De Witt (George Sanders- standing by Marilyn in pic above) has some very witty/biting lines in this film.  He’s the bright, charming villain who takes an interest in Eve’s career.  I liked his character because he’s the one person who can go toe-to-toe with the real, ruthless Eve.  The best things about this film is the fast-paced, clever dialogue.

 

Hud has great cinematography; the B&W made the film look crisp and modern to me.  Paul Newman just becomes the character- one very different from himself.  His accent is flawless, too.  Check out these two films ASAP!

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Movie Review: “Becoming Jane”

I first saw this movie (based on the biography of Jane Austen by Jon Spence) on You Tube.  I thought it was okay.  On first glance, I enjoyed the music and scenery (actually Ireland, not Hampshire).  I saw it again, and was very surprised by the superb acting, especially by the younger actors.  There were a few moments, involving Tom Lefroy’s wild behavior that seemed a bit extreme; aside from that, I have no complaints.  This is a beautiful, intelligent movie that I highly recommend to all JA fans!

Warning: My review has MAJOR spoilers!

Anne Hathaway plays the 20 year old Jane who, over one tumultuous summer, falls in love with charming lawyer-in-training Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).  Tom was sent to the country to stay with his cousins by his uncle, a high court judge.  This uncle, upon whom Tom relied, disapproved of his wild behavior (gambling, boxing, carousing with women, etc.)  Tom is also a great pal of the eldest Austen son, Henry (Joe Anderson, a very cute/blonde young actor).

Did you know Anne did her senior thesis at Vassar on JA’s works?  She takes her role seriously here.  Anne’s take on Jane seems well-researched; she never looks out of place.  She learned to write and play paino like JA did!  Upon first meeting Tom, Jane is not impressed.  In a letter, she calls him “insolent, arrogant, impudent, insufferable, impertinent.”   He is bored with this new “rural” set of people, and thinks he’s above them.  Shades of Mr. Darcy!

The Austen parents, James Cromwell and Julie Walters, are grounded in life’s realities, but they married for love.

“That girl needs a husband. But who’s good enough? Nobody!” -Mrs. Austen laments

Father is more sensitive to Jane’s wishes; mother is more of a realist.

“Jane should have not the man who offers the best price, but the man she wants.” -Rev. Austen

I liked Cromwell very much in this role; it really suited him.  (He can currently be seen as George H. W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s biopic W.)

“I will not marry without affection, like my mother!” -Jane to Mrs. Austen

“Affection is desirable.  Money is absolutely indispensable!” -Mrs. Austen to Jane

Another great supporting character is Jane’s beloved older sister Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin).  She is the shy, sweet, obedient girl in the family.  But her fiancé, the young parson-to-be, Mr. Fowl, dies overseas of yellow fever.  Cassie, who feels very deeply, never thinks of another man.  (This would later become the impetus for Persuasion.)  Anna suits her role very well; she had been in many period dramas, including North & South and Bleak House.

Henry, who also has a sub-plot, is pursued by their elegant, widowed older cousin, a French countess by marriage.  Eliza is the voice of the experienced, worldly woman in Jane’s life.  The countess uses her beauty, charm, and (especially) money to gain Henry’s interest.

“Sometimes affection is a shy flower that takes time to blossom.” -Mr. Wisley to Jane

As you may know, Jane received a few marriage proposals over her short life.  One such offer comes from the tall, quiet, socially awkward Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox) who will inherit the property of his childless, wealthy aunt, Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith).  (Wisley is loosely based on Harris Biggs, a man who proposed to the real JA when she was 27.)

Laurence Fox is the son of actor James Fox and cousin of the lovely Emilia Fox (who appeared as Miss Darcy in the popular Pride & Prejudice miniseries).  Laurence recently played Cecil in the new version of A Room With A View.  Mr. Wisley slowly grows to admire Jane’s independent spirit.  Lady Gresham brings to mind Lady Catherine from P&P, though she is a bit more humane.

Tom Lefroy was believed to be the one love of Jane’s life.  Below is a pic of the real Tom!

The young couple are ill-suited for each other, according to the prevailing thought of the day.  Though Tom seems like a free-wheeling, carefree guy, Tom is from a poor family in Limerick who depend upon him for support.  (His mother married his father for love, and they had many children.)  He’s the kind of young man who must marry for money, or wait until he has made some on his own.  But, like Jane, he has a non-conformist side.

Tom recommends that Jane read Tom Jones to learn more about the world of young men.  He never says anything negative about her desire to be a novelist.

“If you wish to practice the art of fiction, to be considered the equal of a masculine author, experience is vital.” -Tom advises

“I think that you, Miss Austen, consider yourself a cut above the company.” -Tom comments during a public assembly (dance).

“Me?” -Jane replies with surprise.

 “You, ma’am. Secretly.” -Tom observes wisely.

The main reasons to see this movie: James (and his very fine eyes- a great compliment in JA’s time), the terrific chemistry between him and Anne, and the gorgeous music.  James (the more I see of him, the more I want to see!) is full of energy, empathy, grace and style in this film.  He sinks seamlessly into his character, and these costumes look (especially) good on his frame.  He’s one of those (rare) young men who’s not afraid to look vulnerable.  His eyes are very expressive.  Anne calls him “a legend in the making” on the special features.  Check out Becoming Jane ASAP!

Emma meets Richard Belzer (L&O: SVU’s Det. Munch)!!!

This evening, I went to a book reading/signing at the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center (66th St & Broadway) for actor/comedian Richard Belzer’s latest book, a mystery novel that blends real life, fiction, and humor- I Am Not A Cop!  Richard was HILARIOUS!  He’s very quick with his humor, but also very approacheable. 

HLOTS cast photo

He has played Detective John Munch (on various shows) since 1992.  But the producers initially “wanted a Jason Priestley type” for Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street, a smart, gritty police drame set in Baltimore.  (This comment got BIG laughs from the audience!) 

Reading from his book
Reading from his book

“I hope you’re enjoying this.  I am.  I mean- how many times do you have a famous actor read to you?”

Richard’s glamorous-looking wife (Harlee) and two dogs (Django and Bebe) were also present.  (He is the spokesman this year for the North Shore Animal League.)  The dogs were walking about the room; people thought that was cute.  They were well-behaved (for the most part).  Did you know “the Belz” (as some fans call him) spends his time away from NYC in France? 

SVU stunts
A question re: SVU stunts

A young lady asked if he had a stunt double; Richard instantly fell on the stage!  LOL!!!  “Of course I do,” he said, pretending to be injured after getting up.  “But some actors have a need to do their own stunts.  Meloni does a lot of his own stunts.”   

SVU cast photo
L&O: SVU cast photo
TBJ
Jerry Orbach

When asked about his great chemistry with Jerry Orbach (they worked together on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order crossover shows), Richard said: “He’s one of the people that I never heard anything bad about.  We shared a dressing room whenever we’d do crossover shows.  And did you know he was voted as one of the top 100 performers on Broadway?  Think of that- out of all the thousands of performers who’ve appeared on Broadway.  You know- he was New York.”  Very sweet! 

Chatting and signing books
Chatting and signing books

Richard, unlike Det. John Munch, has a much more positive tone to his voice.  He looked very relaxed, even when an older gentleman made an odd/rambling comment.  I liked how he related to the audience, and took the time to chat a bit and pose for photos.

Chat with fan
Chat with fan

Another SVU fan asked if there are any plans for Munch to have a love interest.  Richard asked one of the show’s directors (sitting in audience); he said “no” firmly.  Richard would like to have a girl, though.  (I thought he and Jennifer Esposito had GREAT chemistry when she was on; too bad her character died!)  

A few people commented that they wanted to see more of Munch, because he wasn’t very prominent last season.  (I agreed!)  Richard replied that he was “very flattered” but liked to have freedom to do other projects that were of interest to him, too. 

With his dog, Bebe
With his dog, Bebe

Richard read a few pages from his book; he said he’d been writing for a long time.  His plan is to get 2 more novels published soon; one is already completed.  When asked about his motivation/influence, he said he admires (pulp mystery writers) like Dashiell Hammett.

Me and Richard!!!
Me and Richard- one of the actors I’ve watched for a LONG time!!!

I took a pic for the young lady ahead of me in line, so she took one for me- YAY!  She looked excited because SVU is her mom’s fave TV show, and she’d be able to give a COOL b-day present.

Now the BEST part… my little chat with Richard: 

Me: “It’s really great meeting you.  If you have some pull… could you maybe get Andre Braugher to guest star on SVU?  That’d be great!”

RB: “You know, nothing would make me happier.  He used to beat me in chess.”

Andre REALLY should be famous!
Andre REALLY should be famous!

Extended Movie Review: ITV’s “Sense and Sensibility”

One of the DVD covers
One of the DVD covers

I recommend that you don’t read my review until you’ve seen the movie.  But if you don’t mind spoilers, go right ahead.  I watched this (three-part) movie again because I was very impressed upon first viewing it on You Tube this past summer.  Then I saw it on Masterpiece Theater on PBS.  My mom really liked it too, especially the beautiful scenery and music (dramatic when it suited the moment). 

 

 

Mrs. Dashwood
Mrs. Dashwood

 

The newest film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a mix of Austen and Bronte, according to producer Anne Pivcevic.  The Dashwood ladies (middle-aged, widowed mother Mary, sensible/practical eldest daughter Elinor, passionate/opinionated middle daughter Marianne, and energetic pre-teen Margaret) actually live in a cottage very close to the sea in Devonshire.  Talk about being removed from “society!”  Most of the rain in the movie is real rain.  Pivcevic and screenwriter Andrew Davies (who adapted Emma starring Kate Beckinsale and the gorgeous Daniel Deronda among others) explain on the commentary track.  The family has fallen very far from the comfort of Norland, the viewer can see clearly.

 

 

Two great interpretations of Elinor
Two great interpretations of Elinor

 

 

I think it’s best not to hope too fervently for something that may never happen.

-Elinor Dashwood on her relationship with Edward

 

Aside from the great settings, I was struck my how well the actors (especially those under 30) performed.  Janet McTeer (Mrs. Dashwood) is a tall, elegant woman.  She brings softness to Mary, who had been a sheltered woman most of her life.  Upon her husband’s death, she is a bit lost, and Elinor (just 19 at the start of the tale) has to explain their financial situation to her.  One of my first thoughts was that Hattie Morahan (Elinor) has amazing skin!  But aside from that, her great posture and fine features seem to suit the time period to a tee.  I like her speaking voice; she sounds very elegant (and very similar to Emma Thompson).  I always imagined Elinor looking something like this- mature, dignified, and a natural beauty. 

 

 

 

Willoughby and Marianne (Ang Lee's film)
Willoughby & Marianne (Ang Lee)

 

  

The new Willoughby & Marianne
The new Willoughby & Marianne

 

Elinor, I don’t care what those people think! –Marianne Dashwood

 

Just 17 when the story begins, Marianne (Charity Wakefield) is justifiably a little rebellious.  She gets upset with Fanny at the dinner table, embarrassed by Sir John and Mrs. Jennings’ jokes, and despairs of ever finding love.  Marianne has many different hairstyles to go along with her many moods; this reminded me of modern girls (who often color/re-fashion their hair).  The actress’ large blue eyes upon a small face are big assets.  As in Ang Lee’s wonderful big screen movie, the young Margaret (here nicknamed Meg) is a bubbly, smart, somewhat tomboyish girl.  She is observant, and often says the things that the grown-ups are thinking.  You can’t fool kids!      

 

 

 

Two VERY different Edwards!
Two VERY different Edwards!

 

I have no wish to be distinguished. –Edward Ferrars

  

This Edwars is NOT plain...
NOT a plain guy at all…

 

I think we all have to find our own ways to be happy. –Edward Ferrars

 

Davies says that he worked hard to punch up the male characters; he felt they were underdeveloped in the book (especially Edward).  I agree about Edward; in the book, he’s not a captivating guy at all.  In this movie, Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens) is the best looking guy!  His clothes are a bit old-fashioned and faded, as he doesn’t seek fortune or fame (unlike the rest of his family).  Clothes reflect character sometimes, right?  Edward seems shy and awkward, but only briefly; some Austen fans commented that they didn’t like that.  This Edward is thoughtful, very honorable (like in the book), but also outgoing.  I thought the horse-riding scene with Meg was sweet; that (gorgeous black) horse was Colin Farrell’s in Alexander (Dan Stevens says on the commentary). He did a good job with this role; I liked the moments of youthful uncertainty he displayed.  The wet shirt/log chopping scene was a too much out of character.  However, I did like the sincere concern with which he said “You have very little help here.”  That revealed him as a true friend to the family!    

 

Bad boy
Bad boy

He is too rational for me- more to be admired than loved.

 –Willoughby on poet John Pope

 

Davies wanted more action for the men, so he expanded on events that were merely hinted at in the book (for example: the duel between Willoughby and Col. Brandon).  I didn’t think Willoughby (Dominic Cooper, who can currently be seen in The Duchess opposite Keira Knightley) was handsome at all.  However, he was very good at playing up the dark undercurrents of his character.  His big dark eyes, dark hair, and richly colored costumes (red, black, elaborately embroidered) helped portray him as someone (potentially) dangerous.  Remember that this guy seduced a very young girl (the ward of Col. Brandon) in the start of this version, then abandoned her pregnant.  Pivcevic points out that Marianne could also have been ruined by Willoughby because she lets her emotions overtake her judgment at times.  Wow, I’d never thought of that!  She only lets him have a kiss in this film.  Overall, having young actors really paid off!

 

 

 

  

What a CUTE horse!!!
What a CUTE horse!!!

 

…he’s the only one in the neighborhood one can have an intelligent conversation with!

-Marianne on Brandon         

 

I really enjoyed the parts of Brandon and Marianne becoming acquainted before Willoughby raced in.  David Morrissey looks boyish when he smiles; in his eyes, you can see his character’s hopes and fears.  After Brandon gives her the sheet music, note the expectation on his face as he mentions her someday trying his piano- good stuff!  She says she can talk with him.  Marianne wasn’t thinking about love though.  Pivcevic says that she needed to grow up more in order to appreciate a good man like the colonel.  

 

 

 

I shall be very sorry to see her injured. –Col. Brandon on Marianne

 

My favorite moment in the film is at the very end of Part 1.  Notice the look on the colonel’s face when he sees Willoughby paying his first call to Marianne (while her ankle is sprained).  The concern and sadness in his eyes as he walks away from the cottage reveal much about his character.  We can’t help but wonder if Brandon’s just sad for his loss of suit, or if he knows something not-so-nice regarding Willoughby.  Another nice moment is when the girls spot Edward (riding quite fast, I thought) toward the cottage; the look of triumphant happiness on Elinor’s face is very sweet.

  

 

Some comic relief
Some comic relief- the Steele sisters

Company, company, company!  Where would we be without company?

–Sir John

 

I thought that the smaller characters such as: Fanny, Mrs. Jennings, and Lucy’s hilarious sister (Anne) did a fine job.  I loved Anne’s constant chattering about “beaux.” The evil sister-in-law, Fanny, was tightly wound (including her hair), unfeeling, and vain.  Mrs. Jennings, besides being quite a busybody, was sweet and solicitous of the Elinor and Marianne (especially in London).  Lucy was very naïve about Edward’s family; she is a simple country girl after all.    Sir John was too gregarious in the beginning, but he had a twinkle in his eyes that told you he was a decent guy.

 

A painting of JA
A painting of JA

 

Austen makes a big point regarding money in her books, and Sense and Sensibility in no exception.  The girls deserve much more than what half-brother John offers; Fanny changes his mind (as she wears the pants in that family).  Willoughby, who falls in love with Marianne, chooses Ms. Grey “with her 50,000 pounds” after Lady Allen disowns him.  (Lady Allen did so because she found out about his affair with Brandon’s ward, we are told in the Ang Lee version.)  He’s used to the good life.  Edward, fearing his mother’s wrath and disownment, keeps the engagement to Lucy a secret for 4 years!  However, riches are not a big deal for Edward; he wants to become a country parson.

 

One of the main reasons Col. Brandon is seen as very eligible is his great wealth.   Oh, we realize that he has great manners, reads, and is knowledgeable about music.  But that doesn’t put food on the table!  Husbands with good livings (incomes) are very crucial because the girls’ dowries are so small.  Elinor is very aware of that fact, though her mother and Marianne choose not to dwell upon it.  But it all ends well, because respectable, amiable, and pretty girls in Austen’s books get their just rewards!   

 

Elinor nearly misses out on a (very compatible) match because she is too reserved- very aware of propriety.  When her mother wants to write to Edward, she tells her to “let him come in his own time.”  Marianne, on the other hand, risks ruining her reputation by revealing her preference for an (unworthy) man.  Notice how she laughs loudly while dancing with Willoughby; she refuses to dance with any other guy at a party.  This was not considered good manners in Austen’s time.  However, he is her first love, and that’s an age when people aren’t usually sticklers for rules.  I thought it was (a little) risky for her to go riding in the curricle for a few hours and visiting Allenham.  (I had the same thought when I saw the Ang Lee movie, too.)  What do you think?  Watch this new S&S adaptation and share your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Strong (“my Mr. Knightley”) gets critical acclaim!

The current issue of Time notes that in Guy Ritchie’s new action film RocknRolla “Gerard Butler stars, Tom Wilkinson makes a star turn, and Mark Strong steals the show.”

Mark Strong, a VERY talented British actor, played Mr. Knightley alongside Kate Beckinsale in my favorite movie version of Jane Auten’s Emma.  I felt that his characterization of Mr. Knightley was close to the book; he was tough (lectured Emma loudly), haughty (knew his position in society), and rooted in the mores of the period.  Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE Jeremy Northam’s work, but he made the character more light-hearted and fun in Emma with Paltrow.  Even the way Northam moved was easy; Strong made Knightley darker, moodier, and more of a mystery.

Mark as Mr. Knightley

Jeremy as Mr. Knightley

In that same issue of Time, there is a review of the spy thriller Body of Lies starring Crowe and DiCaprio.  Mark Strong has a crucial role in that film; he plays Hani Salaam, the chief of Jordanian intelligence (who helps out Leo’s character).  Okay, Mark is definitely NOT Middle Eastern, but his looks could be considered “exotic” in Hollywood.  His parents immigrated from Italy before he was born; they chose to give him a British name (because they felt it’d help him fit in).

DiCaprio has some unusual-looking facial hair in this film!  A reviewer thought it was “squiggly” and “distracting”- LOL!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758774/

Next up for “my Mr. Knightley”- Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) and Jude Law (Watson).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988045/

But the coolest of all- Mark has acted alongside Sir Ian McKellan!  Below is a pic from a theater production of Richard III.